“Grandpa better not be out in the shop without me!” my 9-year-old grandson huffed as he looked around the kitchen, ignoring breakfast and looking for my husband. The two had spent days working on refurbishing a typing table. Like many little kids, he really enjoyed helping and supervising his grandfather through the project. They had been buddies for days.
It reminded me of the comradery between the oldest son and my husband the years we re-did the basement. Shovelful by shovelful, they dug it out. Cement block by cement block, they built the walls and saw progress every day. Their work, their progress, their achievement.
Kids like to feel useful. They like to learn new skills. Little ones especially like to learn how to use tools. One summer my husband and I supervised a weekend of kids at church camp. Instead of bringing glue, paper, crayons and scissors, we brought wood, nails, hammers and paint.
Over the din of hammers hitting nails, hubby coached kids, “Hold the hammer so that your arm helps you pound. We can take out that nail. We have more. That one is too crooked.” My husband and I worked our way around the room, coaching kids to get their nails straight into the wood, rub sandpaper in the right direction and paint smoothly. The kids finished the weekend with bird houses and crosses on a stand.
Tools and building was one leader’s solution when we had a disruptive child at the weekly kids’ meeting. The kid could not settle. His disruption caught the eye of a retired shop teacher. As the rest of the leaders discussed what to do, the shop leader brought in wood, nails and tools. “I will work with him,” the teacher said.
At the end of the night, the boy joined the group with a completed bird house and a grin.
“We reviewed some verses while he worked,” the teacher said. He had re-directed that energy into a completed project. “I told him he could not keep the birdhouse. He has to find someone to give it to.” The kid knew exactly who should get it. He handed it to one of the women helping with the program. No one said anything else about his disruptions.
Great-grandson Trace, 4, is not disruptive. He cooperates and eagerly offers to help. As his grandpa sat on the floor converting the dishwasher hole into a cabinet, Trace asked, “Can I have a screwdriver?”
Grandpa pulled out a short screwdriver out of his toolbox, “you can use this one,” thinking Trace wanted to change a battery in one of the toys. The child is quite adept at handling that simple task so Grandpa turned back to the cabinet.
Finished with his work, Grandpa started to stand up when he noticed Trace across the room loosening the last of the screws of the hinge of another cabinet.
“Whoa! Buddy. Let’s put that back on, okay?”
Trace looked up, startled, unsure if he was in trouble.
“Let me show you how, and you can put the door back on the cabinet. Okay, Little buddy?”
Trace nodded. He watched carefully then stood and happily screwed the door hinges tight again. “He likes to take things apart and put them together,” his mom said.
As have many other children through the history of time. They want to make something out of real wood. They want to work with real tools. They want to make something heavier than what a refrigerator door magnet can hold. And they will, if their grandpas and daddies invite them to join them in the workshop.